Introduction: Dental follicle gives rise to one or several tissues of the periodontium including the periodontal ligament, cementum and/or alveolar bone. Whether Wnt5a is expressed in the postnatal periodontium or regulates dental follicle stem/progenitor cells is unknown.
Methods: Dental follicle stem/progenitor cells were isolated from postnatal day 1 (p1) to p11 from rat mandibular first molars. Immunolocalization mapped Wnt5a expression in the alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, and the developing ameloblast and odontoblast layers. Mononucleated and adherent cells were isolated from p7 dental follicle. Wnt5a was overexpressed in dental follicle stem/progenitor cells to study their proliferation, osteogenic differentiation and migration behavior, with subpopulations of native dental follicle stem/progenitor cells as controls, using real-time PCR (Taqman), Lenti-viral transfection, Western blotting and immunofluorescence.
Results: Wnt5a was expressed consistently in p1 to p11 rat peridontium. Native, p7 dental follicle stem/progenitor cells had modest ability to mineralize in the tested 14 days. Even in chemically defined osteogenesis medium, dental follicle stem/progenitor cells only showed modest mineralization. Upon addition of 300 ng/mL Wnt5a protein in osteogenesis medium, dental follicle stem/progenitor cells displayed mineralization that was still unremarkable. Chemically induced or Wnt5a-induced mineralization of dental follicle cells only occurred sparsely. Combination of Wnt5a with 100 ng/mL BMP2 finally prompted dental follicle stem/progenitor cells to produce robust mineralization with elevated expression of Runx2, alkaline phosphatase, collagen 1α1 and osteocalcin. Thus, native dental follicle stem/progenitor cells or some of their fractions may be somewhat modest in mineralization. Strikingly, Wnt5a protein significantly augmented RANKL ligand, suggesting putative regulatory roles of dental follicle stem/progenitor cells for the monocyte/osteoclast lineage and potential involvement in alveolar bone remodeling and/or resorption. P-Jnk1/2 was activated in Wnt5a overexpressed dental follicle cells; conversely, exposure to SP600125, a c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor attenuated Runx2, collagen 1α1 and osteocalcin expression either in the presence or absence of Wnt5a. Wnt5a overexpression in dental follicle stem/progenitor cells significantly reduced their proliferation rates, but robustly augmented their migration capacity.
Conclusions: These findings provide a glimpse of Wnt5a's putative roles in dental follicle stem/progenitor cells and the periodontium with implications in periodontal disease, tooth eruption, dental implant bone healing and orthodontic tooth movement.